Skip to main content

How a group of economists undermined public institutions, paving the way to neoliberalism

An assumption had become a truth. The self-interested model of human behaviour, that had been developed in the Cold War to make the mathematical equations work, had now been adopted by these economists as a fundamental truth about the reality of all human social interaction.


A group of economists in the early 70s arbitrarily adopted the self-interested model of human behaviour that had been developed in the Cold War, to explain the dysfunctionality of public institutions. This perception would become a powerful tool in the hands of the neoliberal ideology, carried by big banks and corporations, to demonize the state and dismantle any state control upon them at the expense of the societies.

In his documentary The Trap, Adam Curtis explains:

In the early 70s, the government bureaucracies in Britain began to collapse. Those around them blamed a growing economic crisis, but it was clear that something much more fundamental had gone wrong. What were supposed to be institutions to help people, had become destructive. Those around them seemed to turn against the very people they were supposed to serve.

A group of right-wing economists in America now put forward a theory that, they said, explained why this was happening. At the heart of their idea was Game Theory. They said that the fundamental reality of life and society was one of millions of people continually watching and strategising against each other, all seeking only their own advantage.

An assumption had become a truth. The self-interested model of human behaviour, that had been developed in the Cold War to make the mathematical equations work, had now been adopted by these economists as a fundamental truth about the reality of all human social interaction.

Economist and game theorist, Thomas Schelling, says:

           We were always trying to infer the intentions of the other. We were always trying to convey our intentions, either deceptively or truthfully. We were always trying to find ways to make believable promises, and sometimes to make believable threats. Threatening the Soviet Union, threatening a misbehaving animal, threatening a child, threatening a neighbour… I think what we were doing is what we call strategising. ‘What does he think that I think he thinks that I think he's going to do?’ It has to come to some kind of equilibrium. What is it that we can both recognise, is the obvious thing to do?

What this meant, the economists argued, was that the politicians and bureaucrats belief that they were working for what they called "the public good" was a complete fantasy - because to do that depended upon creating shared goals in society, based on self-sacrifice and altruism. But in a world that was really driven by millions of suspicious, self-seeking individuals, such concepts could not exist.

Out of this came a theory called "Public Choice", and a group of economists who were determined to destroy the politicians’ dream that they were working for the public interest.

Their leader was called James Buchanan.

Buchanan says:

           There's certainly no measurable concept that could meaningfully be called the public interest, because how do you weigh different interests of different groups and what they can get out of it? The public interest as a politician thinks, does not mean it exists, it's what he thinks is good for the country. And if he would come out and say that, that's one thing, but behind this hypocrisy of calling something "the public interest" as if it exists, that's what I was trying to tear down.

In 1975, Mrs Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party. And Buchanan's ideas had a powerful influence on her, and the group of radicals gathered around her. A rightwing think-tank advising Mrs Thatcher brought James Buchanan to London for a series of seminars. And he explained starkly why the British state was failing. It was pure Game Theory: because there was no agreed version of "the public good", the bureaucrats and the politicians schemed and strategised in their own self interest, building up their power and their own empires. They claimed to be helping others. In fact it was the very opposite, and the result was economic chaos, and a breakdown of society.

As the British economy spiralled out of control, the political and bureaucratic elite who had dominated Britain since the war, found themselves under attack from both the Right and the Left. Where once they had been heroic figures who would create a new world, now they were accused of being agents of control, not freedom.

And these new theories began to spread into the public imagination. The writer who was part of the group advising Mrs Thatcher, began to write a sitcom [Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister] that explicitly put forward the theories of Public Choice. As well as being funny, it was ideological propaganda for a political movement.

Comments

  1. Natural human behavior, protecting finite resources in hand, is in mankind DNA. However, this became not the case for humans since 1712's steam engine in Britain - the observation that has been also written on passionately by William Jevons, back in the 1980's.

    The suspension of that instinct has played havoc with Economics, as now humans are unable to fathom the role of fossil fuels Energy in our civilisation.

    Humans can NOT manufacture energy (a constraint depicted in a couple of diagrams below).

    Economics and Social-Contracts written since Malthus, Adam Smith and Marx should now be re-written again for the coming, post abundant fossil fuels age.

    Until then, "The Tragedy of the Commons" has now given its own law of thermodynamics!

    https://the-fifth-law.com/pages/press-release?failedrev=economicsundermined

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How CIA altered the ending of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' to project Communism as the sole tyrannic system

globinfo freexchange

This interesting short documentary by AJ+, explores the cultural war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In an effort to project Communism as the evil against capitalist West and the "free world", CIA had to covertly interfere through various ways in art, music, literature, philosophy.

In one of these cases, the documentary reveals how CIA altered the ending of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' to project Communism as the sole tyrannic system. It is also interesting the fact that the case involved an animated film, indicating that CIA's cultural propaganda was targeting minor Americans in order to "train" them ideologically.

According to the story, George Orwell, who wrote such middle-school classics as 1984 and Animal Farm, described himself as a Democratic Socialist. And he was actually pretty anti-Stalinist and anti-Soviet-style socialism, something which was unusual among Leftist circles at the time.

We already live in a permanent recession in which the Wall Street mafia secretly and continuously is being bailed out with billions by the Fed!

globinfo freexchange
Jimmy Dore and Dylan Ratigan explain in this video the secret mechanism through which the Fed is permanently bailing out the Wall Street mafia with billions. 
Dore refers to a September article by CNN Business with information that, under normal circumstances, should have made big headlines, generating massive anger.
We were trained not to be surprised by the liquidity injections that the central banks like the Fed and ECB provide to the biggest financial institutions. When at the same time, the real economy, and especially the small-medium business sector is literally struggling to survive in the capitalist West.
Yet, in this case, some additional information reveals something impressive. As Dore highlights from the article: 
                  Until this week, the Fed hadn't launched an operation like this since 2008. [...] Still, the fact the Fed needed to pump $128 billion into the system on successive days shows that a crack has emerged in a seldom-discusse…

The global youth radicalization and the fight for Socialism

by Eric London
Across the world, in countries as culturally distinct as Ecuador, Lebanon, France, Germany, the US, Iraq, Chile and Haiti, a new generation of working class youth is making its powerful entrance onto the battlefield of the global class struggle.

Citing the international scope of recent mass demonstrations, the Guardian's Simon Tisdall recently wrote: “Each country’s protests differ in detail, but recent upheavals do appear to share one key factor: youth ... This global phenomenon of unfulfilled youthful aspirations is producing political time bombs. Each month in India, one million people turn 18 and can register to vote. In the Middle East and North Africa, an estimated 27 million youngsters will enter the workforce in the next five years.

The political awakening of the most educated, urbanized and technologically interconnected generation in history is of critical strategic significance for the entire working class. 
Born beginning in the 1990s, today's youth…

Το Μητσοτακικό καθεστώς βάζει σε εφαρμογή το σχέδιο για τη δημιουργία κράτους σκληρής καταστολής

globinfo freexchange

Μετά το πρώτο βήμα που έκανε το Μητσοτακικό καθεστώς για τη δημιουργία Ειδικών Οικονομικών Ζωνών εντός της Ελληνικής επικράτειας, δηλαδή για τα φέουδα του 21ου αιώνα, όπως είχαμε προβλέψει, φαίνεται ότι, δυστυχώς, αρχίζει να επαληθεύεται και το σχέδιο για την ανασύσταση του δεξιού παρακράτους.  
Ήδη από το Μάιο του 18, είχαμε επισημάνει ότι σε ομιλία του στη βουλή, ο Μητσοτάκης ξεκίνησε το παραλήρημα του περί βίας αναφερόμενος συγκεκριμένα στα 'Εξάρχεια', τους 'Ρουβίκωνες' και τους 'αγανακτισμένους'. Και στο σημείο αυτό, πάλι κάτι ξέχασε: τους φασίστες.
Έτσι, έστειλε σήμα στους μηχανισμούς του αστικού καθεστώτος ότι θα συνεχίζει να το προστατεύει εγκαθιστώντας ένα κράτος σκληρής καταστολής, χωρίς να πειράξει το ακροδεξιό βαθύ κράτος που επιστρατεύει η εγχώρια ολιγαρχία όταν αισθάνεται κίνδυνο. Ένας κίνδυνος που μπορεί να έρθει σε περίπτωση νέων αναταραχών από τις βάναυσες πολιτικές λιτότητας που ο Μητσοτάκης θα συνεχίσει να εφαρμόζει π…

It's now or never: the first step for a Sanders/Corbyn synchronization in power must be done on 12 December in UK

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the global working class
by system failure
Two years ago, we wondered whether a US government under Bernie Sanders, together with a UK government under Jeremy Corbyn, could mark a decisive victory against neoliberalism. Whether it could mark the beginning of the end of the Reagan/Thatcher awful legacy.

It seems that the time has come for the first step towards this prospect.

The oncoming UK general election on Thursday 12 December 2019, will be the most critical for decades, especially for the global working class. The outcome will determine to a significant degree, whether the capitalist West will change course away from the destructive neoliberalism, towards a form of Democratic Socialism. A new model that will resurrect the social state, while at the same time, will seriously deal with the great environmental challenges, defying big interests and rejecting the for-profit-wars model.



As we already pointed out, the whole Brexit issue is pri…

Trump threatens to transfer the endo-capitalist war into a civil war level

globinfo freexchange
Donald Trump finally counter-attacked against corporate Democrats and their persistent desire to impeach him, through the ultimate threat: a civil war. In a recent tweet he wrote:
"... If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.
....If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
Speaking to the Real News Network, Jeet Heer of The Nation pointed out:
The civil-war tweet is almost like a threat. It’s like, 'Well, this is a nice little Republic you got here, and it’d be a shame if anything happened to it.' But the thing is that this civil-war talk did not originate from T…

Slavoj Zizek: we may be entering an era of widespread civil unrest

RT
Anti-establishment protests are popping up all over the world, in countries with different political systems, and various levels of wealth. We may be entering an era of widespread civil unrest.

Under digital surveillance: how American schools spy on millions of kids

Fueled by fears of school shootings, the market has grown rapidly for technologies that monitor students through official school emails and chats
by Lois Beckett

Part 5 - Shifts in culture

School officials say that their primary motivation for using surveillance technology is the chance to save a student’s life. But schools are monitoring students’ digital documents in real time for a wide range of content they see as problematic, from swear words to nude images and pornography to cyberbullying to evidence of drug and alcohol use.

In Weld county, Colorado, a student emailed a teacher that she heard two boys were going to smoke weed in a bathroom, Hernandez, the student services and safety director, said. Gaggle immediately alerted school officials: “Within four minutes of her sending this email, the troops had deployed,” she said.
Gaggle also automatically sends students a scolding email any time they use a profanity.

A few school districts have chosen not to send students Gaggle’s war…

Julian Assange's extradition process is 'a charade'

The Real News Network
Filmmaker John Pilger attended Julian Assange's last court hearing and observed not only that Assange is visibly suffering from prison mistreatment, but his defense is not being given a fair chance to make its case against his extradition to the US.


Bernie and AOC demonstrate how Baby Boomers could help Millennials escape the neoliberal Matrix

globinfo freexchange
In a recent ad, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explains why she endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. Yet, it would be interesting to examine a specific point she makes at the beginning of this short video. AOC says:
                    The first time I ever heard about Bernie Sanders was when I was a waitress in a greasy spoon diner type of restaurant in downtown Manhattan. And I had been working 12 hour days. I didn't have health insurance. I was being paid less than a living wage. And I didn't think that I deserved any of those things, I thought that that's just how life was.

Her last (highlighted) phrase tells you a lot of how deeply the neoliberal perception has penetrated inside societies and especially inside the minds of new generations. Entire generationshave been trained to believe that that's how things are, in order to accept the neoliberal order and retire from any attempt to overthrow it.
As we wrote in a previous article, during the last f…